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NFL Week 17 Preview – the Final Notes of the Regular Season

2015-12-31 17:43
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The NFL regular season is almost over – there is only one match left for each team and all of these games will take place on Sunday. On top of that, all the teams will fight against divisional rivals.

In the NFC conference, all six playoff contenders have been already decided, but the teams are still fighting for the final spots in the playoff picture and for the home field advantage.

The final match day in the AFC conference is even more intriguing as only four of the teams clinched the playoff spots and four more are fighting for the last two places in the postseason. Houston Texans and New York Jets are in control, as both these teams may secure their places by winning last match.

Pittsburgh Steelers have complicated their chances with a Week 16 loss to Baltimore Ravens and now they must not only win but must also see the Jets lose.

And Indianapolis Colts need a miracle - or even more - to reach a postseason. They need to win against Tennessee Titans, and hope for the Jaguars’, the Falcons’, the Ravens’, the Bills’, the Dolphins’, the Steelers’, the Raiders’ and the Broncos’ victories. Only the positive outcome of all of these nine matches would grant the Colts a place in the fight for the Super Bowl.

Still, the central match of Week 17 will take place in Wisconsin:

Minnesota Vikings (10-5) @ Green Bay Packers (10-5)  

This match has been named “The Battle for the North”, as it will decide the NFC North champion. The winner of this game will clinch the third place in the NFC playoffs picture and the home advantage in the first postseason match along with the divisional title.

In the case of a Vikings’ victory, the Packers would drop to the fifth place in the conference and they would face the Redskins in Washington in the NFC wild card round. The Vikings’ loss would complicate their situation even more, as they would potentially drop to the sixth spot (if the Seattle Seahawks were to win) and then they would travel once again to the Green Bay Lambeau field for the wildcard match.

The teams already faced each other in the Week 11 match in Minneapolis, and the Packers have demonstrated the advantage of their experience with a road victory against the talented but still young Vikings team. Now six weeks later, the Vikings are hoping for revenge. The Packers won NFC North champions title for the last four seasons, while the Vikings were last named divisional champions in 2009.

Last week, the Packers suffered painful loss to Arizona Cardinals 8-38. The quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked for a career high eight times, and that match highlighted many problems in the Packers’ squad. They couldn't find their game neither on the offense nor the defense while the Vikings celebrated a confident victory against New York Giants last Sunday.

The Minnesota team is led by the sophomore QB Teddy Bridgewater who has proven that he is a coldblooded team leader when needed. And even more important is the role of the veteran running back Adrian Peterson, who for the seventh season in his career surpassed 1,000 rushing yards. The Vikings’ defense was also a force to be reckoned with lately.

In theory, the Vikings are better, but the Packers have more experience and Aaron Rodgers still is often named the best QB in the league, plus, the divisional matches are always fought with double the effort.

Prediction and pick: TonyBet is predicting the Packers’ victory by 2-3 points. This game will show if the young Vikings team has matured enough to make a playoff run. If they can beat the Packers in Lambeau field, they can surprise any other opponent in the postseason.

Seattle Seahawks (9-6) @ Arizona Cardinals (13-2)

Two more NFC playoff teams will face each other in Phoenix, but the significance of this match is different. The Cardinals have already clinched a first round bye in the postseason together with the NFC West champions’ title. With a victory this Sunday, they can still hope to finish in the top seed of the NFC playoff picture (if Carolina Panthers lose against Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

Meanwhile the Seahawks must win and hope that the Vikings will lose to the Packers. In this scenario, they would move up to the fifth seed and would face Washington Redskins. Otherwise, the Seattle team will play against the winner of Vikings @ Packers match in the first round of NFC playoffs. There’s no doubt that the Seahawks would prefer the Redskins, but it may be a mission impossible to win in Arizona.

Many NFL experts agree that the Cardinals are playing the best game in NFL at the moment. The QB Carson Palmer is playing his career season while the rookie running back David Johnson surprised many with his explosive plays. Add the wideouts Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown to this cocktail, and you will understand why the Cardinals are praised by the experts.

And most importantly, the Cards are equally impressive on defensive side of the ball. In last week’s victory against the Packers they caused four turnovers, scored two defensive touchdowns, and sacked the opponent’s QB nine times.

The Seahawks were also playing impressive football for the last two months and in a five game winning streak from Week 11 to 15, the QB Russell Wilson threw for 19 TDs with no picks. But last week, the Seahawks lost at home to other divisional rivals St. Louis Rams and this game reminded that Seattle team’s defense is not as powerful as it was for the several past years. And the Cardinals have already beaten them in Seattle in the Week 10 game.

Prediction and pick: TonyBet is predicting the Cardinals’ victory by 4-5 points. We agree with such advantage this time, as the Cardinals are simply better. They should win against their divisional rivals by a touchdown.

New York Jets (10-5) @ Buffalo Bills (7-8)

It is the “Now or never” time for the New York Jets. With a victory against the Bills, they can clinch a playoff spot. The Bills have already lost their chances to reach the postseason, but the battles in the AFC East are always competitive and the Jets can't expect an easy walk in Buffalo.

Let's not forget that the Bills’ head coach Rex Ryan was released by the Jets last offseason, therefore his motivation for a victory in the season closing match is as big as it can be. In the Week 10 match, the Bills came to the Jets’ home stadium and won.

While the Buffalo team was pretty far from making playoffs, they have still shown flashes of a solid play. The team was led by "The Big 3" - QB Tyrod Taylor, RB LeSean McCoy and WR Sammy Watkins. These three were struggling to stay healthy in the first part of the season, but now they are ready to face their divisional rivals and help Rex Ryan to upset his former team once again.

By the way, even a loss wouldn't eliminate the Jets from the playoffs. In that case, it would depend on the outcome of the Pittsburgh Steelers match. But now the Jets have their fate in their hands, so they'll do whatever they can to win in Buffalo.

Most importantly, they have all the necessary tools to do that. The QB Ryan Fitzpatrick found the game rhythm with the wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Chris Ivory is the leading back and he hopes to reach the 1,000 rushing yards milestone in this match. And the Jets defense is tough, as always.

Prediction and pick: TonyBet is predicting the Jets’ victory by 3-4 points. It is time for the Jets to show their character, but the Bills will fight till the last drop of blood. We expect a close game with the winner emerging at the very end.

Oakland Raiders (7-8) @ Kansas City Chiefs (10-5)

Kansas City Chiefs already made history. They became the second team in the Super Bowl era to make the playoffs after a disastrous 1-5 start. Afterwards they won nine games in a row and they will try to extend this winning streak with a victory against AFC West rivals Oakland Raiders.

The Raiders are young and talented, but their lack of experience determined a mediocre season. Still, they have proven their character last week when they won a home game against San Diego Chargers in the overtime. But the Chiefs are simply on a different level, and Kansas City Arrowhead Stadium is one of the loudest places on Earth, so it will be a hard task for the Raiders.

While the Chiefs started the season 1-5, Denver Broncos start was a perfect 7-0. But now these two AFC West teams are divided by one victory. If the Chiefs win against the Raiders and the Broncos loses to the Chargers this Sunday, Kansas City team would become divisional champions. It is hard to expect the Broncos’ loss at home but you can never be sure in the NFL so the Chiefs have enough motivation to seek victory for sure.

Prediction and pick: TonyBet is predicting the Chiefs’ victory by 6-7 points. The Raiders aren't bad, but we wouldn't be surprised if the home team would beat them by double digits this time.

Other Week 17 matches:

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6) @ Cleveland Browns (3-12) – the Steelers complicated their situation last week with the loss to Baltimore Ravens. They can still reach the playoffs, but not only do they need a victory against the Browns, but also a loss of New York Jets. The Steelers will win in Cleveland, but it is the most likely that their season will end there.

Baltimore Ravens (5-10) @ Cincinnati Bengals (11-4) - Last week the Ravens upset the Steelers and now they can try to do the same for the Bengals, who have already clinched the AFC North championship title. The QB Andy Dalton is still not ready to make a comeback and AJ McCarron suffered a wrist sprain and it is unclear whether he will play on Sunday. We may see the third string QB Keith Wenning under the center.

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) @ Houston Texans (8-7) - Houston Texans are as close to the playoffs and the AFC South title as it is possible to be. They can kill the last hopes of Indianapolis Colts by a victory against the Jaguars. And even if the Texans will lose, it is the most likely that they will make it to the post season.

Tennessee Titans (3-12) @ Indianapolis Colts (7-8) – the Colts’ playoff hopes are still alive, theoretically, but in reality they stand no chance of reaching the postseason as they need a positive outcome of nine week 17 matches. Still, they should end the season with a victory, especially when the Titans’ QB Marcus Mariota was ruled out.

Washington Redskins (8-7) @ Dallas Cowboys (4-11) - Last season Dallas Cowboys won the NFC East division and Washington Redskins were in the fourth place. This time around, they switched positions. The Redskins are divisional champions and the Cowboys finished dead last. This match can't change anything for either team.

New England Patriots (12-3) @ Miami Dolphins (5-10) - Defending champions New England Patriots are currently holding the 1st seed in the AFC conference. They can grant themselves a home field advantage through the Super Bowl with a victory on Sunday, and the Dolphins are a real mess at the moment. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) @ Carolina Panthers (14-1) – The Buccanneers can be happy with a number one overall pick QB Jameis Winston. In his rookie year, he led his team to six victories. Six it was before Week 17, six it will stay after, as the Carolina Panthers can't lose because Arizona Cardinals could pass them in such case. 

San Diego Chargers (4-11) @ Denver Broncos (11-4) - Denver Broncos can clinch a 1st round bye in the postseason with a home win against the Chargers. And the Chargers are simply bad.

Philadelphia Eagles (6-9) @ New York Giants (6-9) – The Eagles’ owner decided not to wait for the end of the season and at the beginning of this week, he fired the head coach Chip Kelly. That change can have a positive impact on the Eagles’ performance in Week 17, while both teams are already eliminated from the playoff hunt.

New Orleans Saints (6-9) @ Atlanta Falcons (8-7) – The Falcons is the only team this season who HAS defeated Carolina Panthers and they did that last week. Still, it wasn't enough to stay in the playoff contention.  Both teams are eliminated and will lack motivation, but the Falcons should win at home.

Detroit Lions (6-9) @ Chicago Bears (6-9) - In the last match of the season, the Lions and the Bears will fight for the third place in the NFC North which is not the outcome that the teams expected prior to the season. The Lions were looking fresher lately but in Chicago, the Bears should win.

St. Louis Rams (7-8) @ San Francisco 49ers (4-11) - Just a few years ago, the 49ers were the Super Bowl contenders, and now they are among the league outsiders. The Rams failed to impress anyone this season as well, but the Week 16 victory in Seattle gave them confidence and the St. Louis team should finish their season with a victory.

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